Laura Tsutsui

Reporter & Producer

Laura Tsutsui is a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Today Laura covers local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produces the weekly news program “Valley Edition.” 

With the Valley Public Radio news team, Laura has won multiple Golden Mike Awards from the Radio Television News Association of Southern California, and been a California Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. In addition to reporting for KVPR, her work has been heard on KQED’s “The California Report” and WHYY’s health podcast, “The Pulse.” 

A Fresno native, Laura graduated from California State University, Fresno as a member of the Smittcamp Family Honors College with a degree in Media, Communication and Journalism.

On this week’s Valley Edition: COVID-19 is disproportionately hurting vulnerable communities like seniors, agricultural workers and the homeless population. We talk to those working to protect the most defenseless among us. 

Plus, we hear from a woman who was born just after another deadly pandemic, the 1918 Spanish Flu. She remembers her parents talking about it, and the Great Depression that followed. 

We’ll also hear the story of a couple applying for asylum during the coronavirus outbreak. Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency Website

The majority of the 25 Coronavirus deaths in Tulare County are due to an outbreak at a Visalia nursing home. In fact, nearly half of the county’s 441 COVID-19 cases are nursing home related.

Fresno County Jail (file photo)

So far, only one inmate at the Fresno County jail has a confirmed case of the coronavirus. And as the pandemic continues, law enforcement are taking precautions to try and keep the case numbers low.

Tony Botti with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office says the inmate wasn’t symptomatic when he was booked Friday, but told a probation officer that he had tested positive a week earlier. 

Fresno State history professor Ethan Kytle has been reviewing news reports about a pandemic, but not this one. He’s been reading the Fresno Morning Republican. That’s the newspaper that covered the Spanish Flu in 1918.

On this week’s Valley Edition: Maria Hinojosa, host of NPR’s Latino USA, talks about her upcoming memoir, and what it’s like to launch and run a non-profit media group. 

Plus, we hear from Fresno State history professor Ethan Kytle who’s been tracking coverage of a different pandemic: the 1918 Spanish Flu. How did Fresno respond back then? The answer might surprise you.  

We also hear from California’s Lt. Governor as she updates us on the state’s response to COVID-19.

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno County Public Health lab was damaged in a flood back in 2019, so the county was sending its potential COVID-19 specimen to Tulare County’s Public Health Lab for analysis. But a partnership with Fresno State now means Fresno County will be able to process tests locally. 

 

Standing outside of the Jordan Agricultural Research Center, Fresno State President Joseph Castro announced that the center will become a testing facility for COVID-19. 

 

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: Today marks the 90th birthday of labor organizer and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. We talk to her about her legacy of activism, and why our collective response to the coronavirus pandemic should be a united one.

Plus, we hear from journalist and author Mark Arax, who invites us to revisit the work of William Saroyan. 

We also learn why a Shark Tank entrepreneur who runs a pet product company in Chicago is now supplying medical masks to hospitals in the Valley.

Community Regional Medical Center

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a program today to provide health care workers with low-cost hotel rooms. But ahead of the announcement, some valley hospitals were already working to provide employee housing. 

City of Bakersfield Recreation & Parks Facebook

Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties have closed their parks to keep people home during the coronavirus pandemic. But Kern County parks are still technically open and with Easter coming up, some residents are worried.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

Constructing the high-speed rail can’t be done from home, so to protect employees from COVID-19, workers are operating differently. 

Diana Gomez is the Central Valley Regional Director with the High-Speed Rail Authority. 

“They used to have big group safety meetings every morning,” Gomez said. “Instead of having the big group safety meetings they have smaller ones.”

There’s also a lot of hand washing and social distancing on the construction sites. Gomez said people don’t sit together during lunch like they normally would.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

What do you do if your printing business is suffering because of COVID-19? Well for one Fresno business, employees are going with the times.

Dumont Printing is still dealing in its usual trade: signage. But instead of company mailers and event announcements, it's making "Keep Distance" decals.

“Immediately we started selling social distancing floor graphics to try and help the small business who is still open and has blue tape on their floor,” said Susan Moore, Dumont’s president and owner. 

Screenshot OnwardCa.org

Bitwise Industries got a shout-out from Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday as he announced relief for small businesses. The Fresno-based tech company is creating a resource for those laid off due to the pandemic: OnwardCa.org

Courtesy of Angela Christiano

We recently asked a few students for audio postcards about how the pandemic is affecting them. Today, we’re going to hear Selma High School senior Mia Salinas who says she’s missing out on prom, her final season of track, and the chance to say good bye to her teachers and friends.

We also hear from Fresno State student Julianna Mazziliano. She’s in her second semester as a liberal studies major and works two jobs, both of which have cut hours due to the pandemic. She says she “didn’t pay $7,000 a year at Fresno State to just sit at home.” 

On this week’s Valley Edition: Lawyers are pushing to get their at-risk clients out of detention centers before they get sick with COVID-19. We hear about one woman’s unexpected journey.  

We also talk to educators about the challenges of distance education especially among the Valley’s most vulnerable students. And we hear from a few students about how school from home is going for them.

Later, we talk to an emergency room doctor about what it’s like to be on the frontlines. 

Kern Medical / Kern County

This week Governor Gavin Newsom announced a program to bring more professionals into the medical field, including students and retirees. Bakersfield College also announced a similar pipeline to help its upper-level nursing students finish their education.

Shantelle Rubio is one of them. When she heard that her school was moving online to reduce the spread of COVID-19, she was stunned.

Courtesy of Faith in the Valley

For most people, rent is due the first of the month. The city of Fresno passed an ordinance that allows renters to cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for not paying rent this month, but the burden of proof is on the tenant. 

Gena Lew Gong

We’ve recently asked our listeners for audio postcards about how the pandemic is affecting them. Today, we’re going to hear from poet Lee Herrick and writer Lisa Lee Herrick who sent a voice memo from their home.

We also hear from Bakersfield resident Randy Villegas who is sheltering in place. Clovis resident and Fresno State lecturer Gena Lew Gong starts us off with a voice memo describing the threats and racism many Asian-Americans are experiencing right now.   

On this week’s Valley Edition: With COVID-19 cases growing at exponential rates, how are local governments, hospitals and nonprofits dealing with the pandemic? We find out how the virus is shaping preparedness plans in the short and long term.   

And we share personal accounts of how the coronavirus is impacting the lives of the Valley’s residents, and how they’re coping.  

Plus, a single mother of two who is living in a homeless shelter with her family gives us some words of hope.

 

Fresno County Jail (file photo)

It’s hard to practice social distancing when you’re in jail and the close quarters increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus. That’s why one Fresno attorney is trying to get his vulnerable client out.

Armando Toro, 62, has diabetes and high blood pressure. These pre-existing conditions put him at a higher risk of becoming severely ill if he’s infected. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

As COVID-19 case numbers rise, one Fresno-based company has pledged $100,000 to help with grocery shopping.

Volunteers from Bitwise Industries have made close to a hundred trips in Fresno, Madera and Tulare Counties delivering groceries and medications to elderly and immune-compromised people. Vice President Terry Solis said it’s part of the company’s new “Take Care” initiative.

 

Solis said she’s taking the necessary hand-washing and social distancing precautions.

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